Gizmodo Raid

There are many theories floating around about the raid on Jason Chen’s home on Friday night.  I have my own theory.

First of all, the guy who found the phone had an obligation under the California Civil Code Section 2080 to try and return the phone to its owner.    He obviously figured out he had a prototype on his hands, so the only owner could be Apple.  According to the Gizmodo piece he even rang them to give it back but couldn’t seem to get past their help desk ticketing system.  So at this point, he’s in the clear.

What happens next though, is where I think the police and DA are interested and no doubt why Apple is now calling it “stolen property”.  Under Section 2080, the finder is supposed to return the property to its owner WITHOUT COMPENSATION.  By offering the phone to Gizmodo at a price, the finder has breached the civil code.  Whether the item now is “stolen” or not is up to a court to decide.  The legal trick here is, the law requires he try and return it within a “reasonable period of time”.  How long is reasonable?  Call Apple up and telling them he has their property seems like he’s done his best.  Again, a judge will decide probably what’s reasonable.

As for Gizmodo, this is where it gets interesting.  If the item is deemed to be stolen and they paid for it, then Jason Chen will certainly get done for possession of stolen goods.  He paid for an item that he knew the seller could not have legally been in possession of.  If there is no charge of theft against the guy who found it, then Gizmodo aren’t off the hook – they could still be staring down the barrel of the California Trade Secrets laws.  The DA could make a case that they coerced the finder into selling them the phone and therefore they had misappropriated trade secrets knowingly.  

I think that’s what the police are looking for – they are trying to fill in the gaps between this guy finding the phone, trying to give it back to Apple, Gizmodo getting involved and how he ended up taking money for the phone.  The warrants name Jason Chen and not Gizmodo, so it certainly looks like the DA is going for him personally, which must lead one to believe they are going down the theft path.

This whole thing by Gawker about journalist rights are completely not in question.  The DA would NEVER want to take that on.  This is about a simple, but very high profile case of an “alleged” stolen prototype.


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